Monday Diary: Amid the school shooting horror, CNN advertises to the converted

Plus: Owen Paterson vs Biddes For Botties, Richard Littlejohn's exquisite turn of phrase and please give generously to The Rebekah Brooks Appeal


Optimism that the indescribable horror in Connecticut might herald some form of sane consensus regarding handguns proved predictably short-lived.

Needless to say, the frothing-mouthed maniacs of the distempered American right were quick to pass judgment. Bryan Fischer, an evangelical preacher and spokesman for the American Family Association, sourced the tragedy to divine commentary on the prayerlessness in schools, reasoning that “God is a gentleman who ... is not going to go where he is not wanted”.

Yet the laurel for sensitivity went to neither him nor even the beauties of the National Rifle Association, but to an apparent bastion of mainstream liberalism. No sooner had CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “on the ground in New Town”, heard somebody blame the slaughter on their dearth of guns (“if the school staff had been armed themselves, they could have shot the guy and saved the kids”) than he cut to an ad break. “For the best shooters around, come to Shooters in Jacksonville!” induced the first ad, for a Florida store whose website boasts: “5,000 guns in stock ... the hottest and hardest-to-get guns including assault rifles”. Even Fox News might have had the wit to pull that one, but such is the collateral damage of crumbling ratings and the commercial imperatives they impose.

Unique perspective from Mail columnist

Whether Richard Littlejohn, who commentates on our descent to hell in a handcart from the detached seclusion of his gated community in Florida, has shopped at Shooters is unknown. Perhaps he will tackle the issue of handguns in his next Daily Mail column, and with the same deft turn of phrase with which he mused last week on Jacintha Saldanha’s suicide.

“Apart from Mrs Saldanha,” wrote Richard, “nobody involved comes out of this well.” Exquisitely put.

A cause that would, surely, unite the BBC

I am gravely distressed by further evidence that News International’s hard line on BBC pay-offs has obliged it to maltreat its own former staff in a cynical quest to avoid charges of hypocrisy.

News that Rebekah Brooks’ departure package was restricted to £10.8m is very hard to take. This is not to abandon hope, of course, that she will eventually be appropriately compensated. One cannot rely on that, however, and we call on the BBC to make The Rebekah Brooks Appeal the beneficiary of its Christmas charity appeal.

Straight talk, without fear or phobia

Owen Paterson: an apology. A week ago, I inadvertently implied that the Environment Secretary was a rent-a-quote twit with a penchant for blurting observations better designed to garnering column inches than bedecking his high office with the dignity that is its due.

Mr Paterson has since derided that unfortunate misreading by turning his intellect to a nuanced analysis of why traditional Tories share his distaste for gay marriage. “It’s simple,” he explained. “Biddies don’t like botties.” Mr Paterson’s political courage – his pronouncement is thought certain to provoke tensions with the influential blue-rinse think tank BFB (Biddies For Botties) – does him no less credit than the cultivated gravitas he brings to his work.

Face of true fortitude on Sunday morning TV

Tremendous, as ever, to find Jack Straw, left, enlivening a Sunday morn with a trip to Andy Marr’s sofa. Jack could not be more eager to discuss the part he may have played as Home Secretary in enabling the rendition of the Syrian dissident Sami al-Saadi to Tripoli, in pursuance of Mr Tony Blair’s gloriously vindicated policy of greasing up to Gadaffi.

Unfortunately, as he ruefully told the Superinjunctor, pending legal actions make this impossible. For one of his peerless integrity, it must be torture – and every inch as agonising as having electricity pumped through the gonads – to be unable to refute the outrageous slurs made against him. Yet Jack bears it with such fortitude that, from that placid countenance, you might almost imagine he could barely care less.

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